ISLAMABAD: Speaker National Assembly, Dr Fehmida Mirza, on Friday said that this National Assembly has been able to earn a special place in history of the country for becoming a pro-active forum in protecting the rights of women.
“In the last three years of its five-year tenure, the National Assembly has passed 77 bills. More than a dozen relate to women and children,” she said while addressing a report launching ceremony of United Nations Women, “Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012 — In Pursuit of Justice”.
She said that the election of the first woman Speaker of the National Assembly in the entire Muslim World as well as in the Region, with an over two-third majority marked the opening of return of democracy in 2008.
And above all, it is also for the first time in national history that the federal and provincial legislatures have seen a record number of women legislators, both on the reserved as well as on general seats. Their performance has amply demonstrated that they are second to none.
Dr Fehmida said that the passage of the 18th Amendment has provided an exceptional opportunity for provincial legislatures to expand their scope and make a decisive move to address the core issue of social justice at the grass-roots level.
This also holds true for important legislation like the domestic violence bill, which is now more under the purview of the provinces.
Commenting on the report the Speaker said that it is indeed a timely and much-needed publication. It provides a useful database for the policy makers and opinion leaders, enabling them to redefine their strategies concerning women.
She said this report has raised serious questions concerning the lacunas in the prevalent legal systems, which allow the perpetuation of gender-based crimes. At the same time, the Report has also offered workable solutions, which merit the combined attention of all stakeholders.
She congratulate the entire UN Women team — especially its Pakistan Office — and earnestly hope that such efforts will continue to be a useful source of guidance and understanding for all concerned in future as well.
She said no system can claim to be democratic and participatory if it fails to include and address the issues concerning its women.
Quoting the Progress of Women Report, launched here on Friday she said the constitutions of 139 countries of the world grant equal status to their women in all realms of life. 125 countries have outlawed domestic violence and in at least 52 countries, marital rape is a criminal offence.
She said this also holds true for Pakistan where each time, the return of democracy brought concrete measures to women’s empowerment. The first people’s participatory democracy of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto saw the first-ever induction of women at the highest decision-making bodies.
She said first woman governor, first woman Deputy Speaker, first woman Senator, first woman Parliamentary Secretary, first woman vice Chancellor — “indeed we crossed many barriers for the first time.”
It was also at that time that the Constitution of the land granted women not only equal rights but also attempted to make up for the follies of the past by promising to make special provisions for the protection of their long-neglected interests, she remarked.
Dr Fehmida said “it is high time that we make our society realize that gender roles, inequities and power imbalances are not a ‘natural’ result of biological differences, but determined by the systems and cultures in which we live. The same can be changed if we seek social change.
She called for forging a comprehensive alliance of political parties, civil society, media and the international partners.
“I would certainly like to acknowledge the contributions of the United Nations, which has remained the most powerful system of global mobilisation in protecting and promoting women rights.” UN’s Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan Rauf Eugin Soyasal, Country Programme Director, UN Women Alice Shackelford, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women Anis Haroon, Woman Ombudsperson of Pakistan Mussarat Hilali were also present on the occasion.
Source: Business Recorder